Along the Brecon Beacons ridge

Looking back over Fan y Big to Cribyn, Pen y Fan and Corn Du

Three weeks ago I finally managed to go back to the Brecon Beacons and walk more or less along the entire main Brecon Beacons ridge from Graig Fan Ddu to Craig y Fan Ddu (I swear these are two different parts of the ridge – Welsh must be an intriguing language. If anyone knows what the difference in meaning is, please feel free to share in comments).

The Beacons charmed me in January when I did a shorter day walk from Cwmgwdi to Pen y Fan and back. The roughly 20 km long ridge follows a series of cirques valleys making for an interesting undulating walk.

The plan was simple, I’d drive to Wales on Friday evening after work, camp at Pencelli Castle, and set off for the walk including a wild camp on Saturday morning.

Friday: London – Pencelli Castle Campsite

After some initial hesitation when I saw the ‘be prepared’ flood warning for Wales, the plan was set in motion nevertheless.

We dashed down the M4 and the various Welsh roads, arriving at Pencelli Castle at 10pm and precisely as it started raining. We built our tent quickly and crawled in expecting a deluge.

Saturday: Upper Blaen y Glyn car park – Cribyn

When we woke up in the morning, we were delighted the deluge didn’t happen. The rain carried on well into the morning though and as we were knackered from the week, we slept long. Any sense of urgency was generally completely lacking. Instead, we slowly cooked our fried eggs and beans, using the need to dry our tent as a handy excuse.

At that pace we only set off from the Upper Blaen y Glyn car park, a short drive from Pencelli Castle, at 12.30! Late, but happy, we were heading towards the Neuadd Reservoirs and then up along a path leading to a cairn at the beginning of Graig Fan Ddu. The rain started falling again as we reached the reservoir and then kept on coming back over and over as showers of different intensity while we walked towards Cornd Du. It even cut our late lunch break extremely short – such outrage!

Graig Fan Ddu rolling into the distance

Once we were past Corn Du the rain stopped and the rest of the day turned into a lovely sunny afternoon and evening.

Aerial views of Brecon from Corn Du

When we reached Cribyn at around six we decided to start looking for a good place to set-up camp for the night.

The Classic: Looking at Pen y Fan and Corn Du from Cribyn

Our camp on the Eastern side of Cribyn

It didn’t take too long and we found some reasonably level (ie only slightly sloping) ground. By 7 o’clock the last walkers were off the nearby trails and we could pitch our tent. It was getting cold quickly, so we cooked and ate inside. We were asleep even before the sun was fully down.

Sunday: Cribyn – Upper Blaen y Glyn car park

Sunday started off sunny. The first walkers on the hills were soldiers training. We caught our first sight of them at about 8 in the morning as they were running up and down Fan y Big and kept encountering them for the rest of the day at various places along the ridge.

It took us nearly until 10 before we got going again, but despite the fact that we were relatively close to the path (and visible from there), none of the few walkers passing by decided to tell us off.

Cribyn from Fan y Big

Once we were up on Fan y Big the going was easy and we meandered along the ridge all the way to the end of Craig y Fan Ddu and then straight down to Upper Blaen y Glyn car park.

We rounded off the trip with a roast and tea at the Old Barn and headed back to London.

All in all we walked about 26km in about 8.5 hours during the weekend. Splitting it into two days made it a leisurely stroll (albeit with heavy backpacks). Without those heavy packs, it would be doable in a day.

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